Halfway done: Lawmakers say session ‘green, not red or blue’ | PostIndependent.com

Halfway done: Lawmakers say session ‘green, not red or blue’

Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

DENVER (AP) ” As the Legislature nears its halfway point on Saturday, Democrats and Republicans both say they’re living up to their promises to work together with a minimum of squabbling.

But so far, they have had little to squabble about.

Republicans, who are in the minority in both houses, point to their cooperation with Democrats on bills promoting renewable energy ” a key part of Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s agenda.

For their part, Democrats say they’re keeping their promise to stick to issues that are important to voters, even if it means supporting GOP bills.

“I think the most important accomplishment is our renewable energy package, which is bipartisan,” House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said Wednesday. “We said when this session began it would be green, not red or blue.”

John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, agreed there have been few sparks so far this session but pointed to the lack of contentious issues.

“It’s hard to be against renewable energy,” he said.

Straayer said other factors have contributed to the low-key session, including the lack of any elections this fall that would trigger more maneuvering and posturing, and the fact that many of the issues before lawmakers cross party lines.

Republicans said the goodwill may be tested in the second half if Democrats move ahead with a resolution criticizing the war in Iraq and plans to change school accountability reports.

But they too acknowledge there has been little to fight about so far.

“There is no reason to fight for the sake of fighting. That doesn’t mean we agree with everything. We said from the beginning we wanted a policy of constructive engagement,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.

The biggest fight so far has been over a measure that would have made it easier to set up all-union workplaces. It passed both houses over the objections of Republican lawmakers and business groups, but Ritter stunned labor leaders by vetoing it.

Ritter said he was satisfied with the bill but not with the process that led to its passage, arguing the debate should have been broader. Business leaders had complained they were excluded from the discussions.

The House and Senate are also still at odds over what to do about Amendment 41, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that bars state employees and their families from accepting gifts worth more than $50 from lobbyists. But the bill has had unintended consequences, raising questions about whether the families of state employees can accept some kinds of scholarships.

Some lawmakers in the House want to pass legislation clarifying the rules, but others in the Senate say they don’t have that power.

Also looming is a battle over a bill that would allow students to opt out of statewide assessment tests.

Republican Nancy Spence of Centennial, the assistant minority leader in the Senate, said despite the unresolved issues over Amendment 41 and education, Democrats and the GOP have cooperated on many accomplishments, often crossing party lines to support each other’s bills.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give them a 5 and I’d give us the other 5. I don’t think they’re running all over us by a long shot,” she said.

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